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The Phoenix City Grille


Portrait of Sheldon Knapp

Falling in Love with the Restaurant Biz

This was not the plan. The original strategy was to get a degree and a job that would allow him to live in Europe, explains Phoenix City Grille owner Sheldon Knapp, an RBAZ client. “A friend advised me that if I wanted to work overseas, I should get a degree at Thunderbird,” said Sheldon referring to the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

But while pursuing that degree, Sheldon began working in the restaurant and nightclub industry, and, you can probably guess, he fell in love. “The more I got to know Arizona, the more I realized this was the clear path I wanted to follow,” he said. So goodbye Europe and hello to an incredible career in the restaurant industry that eventually led to the opening of Phoenix City Grille in 1997.

Right Time, Right Place

When Phoenix City Grille opened its doors, Sheldon was a food and beverage industry veteran, launching a few establishments of his own, but also gaining years of training and experience in many areas of the food and beverage industry. He believes those years of learning the ins and outs of all aspects of the industry significantly contributed to his success at Phoenix City Grille.

He sought out jobs at restaurants that he felt brought unique concepts to the marketplace. There he absorbed as much knowledge as he could to use as the foundation for launching his own successful and unique restaurant. Finally, the time was right and when the perfect location became available, he grabbed it. “I knew the neighborhood well. The facility was well built with good features,” says Sheldon of the location at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix.

Phoenix City Grille has thrived for 25 years as a place for customers to have a great meal in a relaxed and friendly environment. For Sheldon, that success is the result of three main ingredients:

1) Perseverance. “You have to be flexible and be able to adapt to outside factors like a major recession and a global pandemic.”

2) Experience and Know-How. “I was exposed to a wide range of management training in my previous positions from how to run a kitchen to planning a menu. I had a lot of guidance to draw upon from the management training I received.”

3) Always Improving. “My outlook is that a restaurant is always a work in progress. You must be able to keep putting your profits back into your business.”

Keeping the Menu Fresh and Exciting

The menu at Phoenix City Grille is always changing. “I like to rotate dishes out with different specials,” explains Sheldon. Menu selections are often created based on seasonal favorites and new discoveries. As an example, Sheldon described how he and the culinary team developed a new steak sauce using black garlic he was introduced to on a culinary trip a few years ago. The Phoenix City Grille was the first to bring this new ingredient to the Phoenix market. “Discoveries like that help keep things fresh and exciting for everyone, our staff and customers,” he says.

And after 25 years, Sheldon continues to enjoy serving up great dishes for an appreciative clientele. “Eating is a very personal thing,” he says. “Our customers are quick to express their gratitude for a great meal and dining experience. That makes it very fulfilling and what I enjoy most about running my restaurant.”

RBAZ Makes a Surprising Introduction

Being solicited by a bank is practically unheard of for a restaurant, says Sheldon. “Some banks won’t touch our business. Which is not fair to our industry and those of us with a good track record.” But when Sheldon was looking for a local bank, RBAZ came knocking. “The bank solicited our business, so when I met with them and told them what I needed, the bank was able to put together a plan for us. The most important thing for me is that my bank has an understanding of my businesses.”

RBAZ greatly values its relationship with Sheldon and the Phoenix City Grille. “It means a lot to us to be able to support a longtime local establishment like the Phoenix City Grille,” says Amy Lou Blunt, executive vice president and chief credit officer. “Sheldon and his team are real experts in the industry and Sheldon’s passion for delivering great cuisine in a friendly and relaxed environment makes his establishment a unique and exciting experience. We look forward to partnering with them for many more years.”